Founded in Toronto in 2010 by Warren Hildebrand, Orchid Tapes—the now Brooklyn-based online cassette tape label—is a “shared interest in the creation and curation of music and artwork that breaks free of the established norm, disregards trends, reflects the dedication of its creator and provokes a strong emotional resonance within whoever experiences it,” as told on their website.
With a roster of good friends and authentic talent like Alex G, Coma Cinema, Elvis Depressedly, Foxes in Fiction and Ricky Eat Acid, Orchid Tapes is carving a path of their own. Austere got to chat with founder and musician (Foxes in Fiction) Warren Hildebrand, on what it’s like to run a label alongside his partner Brian Vu, and create his own music.
Photo by Daniel Dorsa.
How did the formation of this label come about?
I finished recording my first album, Swung from the Branches, and I wanted something to attach to it to make it a little more official. With that in mind I started Orchid Tapes. I had Orchid Tapes in mind before I started recording the album, but by the end I kind of put all the ideas together. It was like this idea of a label that had nobody else on it except me, but it was enough to justify starting it. It was starting out in 2009-2010 by putting out this one tape.
So it’s clear music has shaped your life. When did making music become apparent to you?
I’ve been recording and writing since I was about 11 or 12-years-old. I grew up on this secluded, tiny farm in a town of about 2,000 people. It was a place where it was really easy to be isolated if you hadn’t grown up in this type of place and didn’t fit in with the people there—which was my situation. So it just made me seclude myself and focus on making music and art, and that’s where the intense interest came. I would just make really early primitive tape recordings. It wasn’t until 15, grade ten, when I started to take it more seriously.
How do you juggle both your work and the label? It must be a lot to multi-task.
I’m not even really sure. It happens somewhere between the stress and the insanity, and somehow it all comes together. Thankfully they play off of each other very well, so when I’m working on one I’m also kind of working on the other. I don’t really do anything else other than seeing my friends and hanging out. It’s just a lot of devotion and realizing that this is such a huge part of my life and that all the hours and time that I devote into it are worth it. This is exactly what I want to be doing with my life and to see it working out the way it is is the most exciting and gratifying thing that’s ever happened to me. That alone helps a lot.
It seems like you have an ear for a vast mix of music, how does picking bands for the label take place?
There wasn’t really a process offinding people. It was people I had been talking to since I had shared my music, and some I had became close friends with. There wasn’t even any question of releasing their music, it just kind of happened. It was super natural and organic because they felt like family. And that’s kind of become the ethos of the label at the core. Everybody is central to it. We’ve known each other for a long time and we all just back each other’s shit really hard. [There are] occasional instances where we’ll do releases with people who are kind of outside that initial group, but I mean, we like to not keep it so insular, but stillinteresting. It really just comes down to music that we like and things that we connect to.
How does it feel to have some of OT’s bands going on tour and being recognized in well-known media?
It’s amazing. It’s crazy with all this success, especially with Alex G. It’s nothing really that we ever anticipated or ever really wanted to see happen, but the more it happens the more we realize the kind of people that like listening and how it’s grown in the four to five years. It’s very inspiring and exciting and any kind of success on any level is absolutely welcomed.
With any business, obstacles arise. How has it been running Orchid Tapes?
It’s kind of difficult because it’s just two of us that run it and we handle 100% of the operations. I do all the shipping from this room. Physical space is an issue, the amount of time it takes to ship out like 500 records can be an issue, which can be alleviated if we were to hire someone else, but we’re on the straight edge between the two worlds right now.We’ve been doing this for four or five years now, so we’ve kind of learned how to get over the shitty parts that come up. It’s been very steady and that’s a good thing.
Any advice for those trying to follow suit in the record label business?
Just be as ambitious as you can and don’t give up when it gets really rough, especially in the first year or two. There were so many different parts where I just wanted to shut it down entirely, it was just so frustrating. There were so many different things that didn’t work out and it didn’t seem worth the amount of effort I was putting into it. Eventually, you’ll get past that and it will be more gratifying. I think as long as you can get past that, it’s all good.
With over 15 artist affiliated with Orchid Tapes, continuous praise from music media outlets like Pitchfork and compilations, cassettes and vinyls for the masses, Hildebrand and Vu are on a roll.
Get to know the rest of their artists and hopefully catch a few on their upcoming tours.